President Trump is leaning into his economic record as he attempts to attract Black voters with a plan to try to secure more lending for African-American business owners.
Trump will be unveiling what he calls the "platinum plan" for Black economic empowerment at a campaign event in Atlanta on Friday.
Ja'Ron Smith — a White House adviser who spoke to NPR in his personal capacity ahead of the event — said the goal is to have the federal government invest in institutions that lend to Black businesses. The campaign believes that a sizable federal investment of about $50 billion could ultimately spur $500 billion in additional capital. That funding would need to be negotiated with Congress.
The campaign also envisions grants for microlending and organizations that can help Black entrepreneurs grow their businesses, Smith said.
"Today is historic because for the first time you have a Republican president and a Republican agenda that's focused on the economic empowerment of the Black community," Smith told NPR in an interview.
Trump won just 8% of the Black vote in 2016. His campaign has opened field offices in predominately Black communities in swing states, as Trump tries to improve on that support. In a tight election, squeezing out a few more votes could make a difference.
The campaign faces an uphill battle. Polls show Black voters overwhelmingly support Trump's Democratic rival, former vice president Joe Biden, and give Trump low marks for his job performance.
Biden discussed his economic plan for Black Americans earlier this week at an event in Charlotte, N.C., pledging to invest more money in historically Black colleges and universities and leverage $150 billion in new capital for Black-owned businesses.
Before the pandemic, Trump would often point to record low Black unemployment as one of the major achievements of his administration. But that argument is harder to make since the pandemic because African-Americans have been hit hard by the current economic downturn.
Even before the pandemic, when Black unemployment was at record low levels, it was still around twice the level of white unemployment.
Trump's plan will also include a proposal to make Juneteenth a federal holiday — and a proposal to enshrine a national database of police misconduct into law. Trump called for establishing the database in June after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. Both these proposals would require action by Congress.
Since Floyd's death, Trump has made repeated calls for "law and order" in response to nationwide unrest over racial discrimination and systemic racial bias in police departments. Critics charge that Trump has inflamed tensions and has not addressed concerns voiced by Black voters about their treatment at the hands of the police.
Smith pushed back against these critiques.
"The president has talked about law and order with compassion," Smith said. "We want to be tough on those violent individuals that victimize people in the community."
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